NKY program aims to connect students to schools, jobs and businesses

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. -- Tim Hanner is a lifelong educator. As the former superintendent of the Kenton County School District, Hanner sees the disconnect between schools and businesses that want to hire young talent.

"The schools don't know what the businesses truly need -- and many times the businesses don't know to tap into high school -- into that pipeline," Hanner said.

That's why Hanner said he is overjoyed about a new pilot program that’s working to connect schools, educators and businesses in Northern Kentucky for universal employment success.

"Workforce is the number one need right now for everyone, and that impacts everyone," Hanner said.

Following his retirement, Hanner founded NaviGo, a division of Children, Inc. NaviGo works with junior high and high school students in planning for future education and workplace opportunities, along with businesses to find and train a "quality workforce."

According to Children, Inc., about 80,000 jobs in Northern Kentucky were not filled in 2017 due to a lack of unskilled labor, a lack of ongoing support for training participants and a limited range of hands-on experiences.

Hanner hopes to change that with the NaviGo Northern Kentucky High School Pipeline to College and Career program by connecting students to employers at an earlier age. Hanner just announced a renewable $125,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

"It's a proud day at Northern Kentucky," Hanner said, "We have too many students who aren't finishing in four years or six years."

The pipeline will focus on Kentucky's top five industry sectors: advanced manufacturing, information technologies, logistics, health services and construction or skilled trades.

One idea is training teachers in local schools to be NaviGo coaches and administrators, according to Hanner.

"This is even during the schools days -- how can the senior year be different? How can we have more students out of the school their junior, senior years on job sites?" Hanner said.

Hanner said the third ingredient is higher education.

"We're working with Northern Kentucky University and Thomas Moore and Cincinnati State and others to make sure they're at the table as we build this as well," he said.

Hanner said he worked for 18 months to secure grants from the state. He worked alongside Amy Razor, Executive Director of the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services. Razor works with 17 school districts in the region to share successful ideas from one district to the next.

"Lots of schools have projects and do things for students to prepare them…" Razor said, "...How can we share that? And so if we could have a person to be a champion on that, how could that look, what would that look like -- and that's how the grant began."

"This is coming to fruition as a pilot that the state is taking a hard look into how this works," Hanner said.

NaviGo received a $25,000 grant from Duke Energy as well.

The program will be led by Helen Carroll, who recently retired from Toyota, Hanner said. According to Hanner the plan is being announced this year and is in the planning process. Hanner hopes the program begins in Northern Kentucky next year.

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